Much of Turkey's coast is beautiful. On one side there's warm bright turquoise water and on the other the vista alternates between pine forests, rocky cliffs, sandy harbours and ancient ruins. What more charming a setting for a sailing could there be? Take Homer's word for it and assume this is one of the world's loveliest stretches of coast.
Sailing the length between İzmir and Anatalya would make for a perfect summer, but most of us would need to break the route up into sections. Here are the more easily traversed morsels to choose your first Turkish sailing holiday from.
After Istanbul, İzmir is Turkey's largest port, nestled into a long narrow gulf of land lined with water craft of all shapes and sizes, and its mild climate and sea breezes make it an enticing place to start sailing from. You can get to İzmir to start your odyssey via Adnan Menderes Airport. Most ships sail from Levent Marina. But before you start your journey see the local sites: the Agora of Smyrna marks the centre of the Agora Open Air Museum, which has some of the best preserved Hellenic structures on the Ionian coast, the Kemeraltı bazaar set up by the Ottomans and the city's three castles.
On your way out of the harbour, spare a glance for the Izmir Clock Tower, 25metres of fountain and graceful north African design, then head seaward, sparing another glance for the nice picture İzmir makes from the ocean.
The bay of Urla iskelesi has some pretty, small islands to hop between, and some memorable beaches, making it a good marina to stop in, and maybe do some snorkelling in? and from there sail towards the bit of the Karaburun Peninsula that juts out into the ocean like a thumb, for more of the same i.e. beaches, pretty towns and snorkel friendly spots.
Çesme, of the many Ottoman fountains, is the next large town to dock at, most likely in the Altin Yunus Setur Marina. Just along from the marina, at Ilıca, are the thermal baths pouring into the sea, ideal for more relaxation if you're not finding the sailing bit relaxing enough.
Sigacik's Marina is the next place to dock, after sailing south past a string of peaceful bays and private beaches. The marina here was built over Genoese fortifications, and there's a good shore trip to the ancient site of Teos, which has an impressive Temple dedicated to Dionysus. Which suggests that it might also be a good spot to stop for a bottle of local wine.
The seaside resort town of Kusadasi, 95kms south of İzmir and now just a bit further along the coast has more lovely beaches and bays to choose to call at one of the nicest is at Guvercin Ada, which is the peninsular with the castle on it. Most people dock at the Turban Marina which is recommended as having some of the best facilities along this stretch of coastline.
Kusadasi is a pretty popular tourist destination in season, good for a civilisation stop if you need one, hang out with the fishing, swimming, sun-loving crowds in the seafood restaurants, bars and cafes or on the beach. Ephesus, a ruined Ionian city is nearby and worth visiting if you're interested in gladiator graveyards and seeing the spot where St Paul heard his response from the crowds after writing a letter to this city. Its 3rd Century Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
For a quieter spot, moor off the Dilek Peninsula National Park, its beaches, Icmeler, Kavakli and Karapinar, are some of the cleanest on the coast.
The Güllük Gulf is the name of the next stretch of coast, basically four large natural coves with many smaller bays and inlets running between them, and past that you're on the Bodrum Peninsular, edging up to Bodrum and its castle, built by the Knights of Rhodes, which guards the entrance to the harbour, while actually harbouring the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Bodrum's Turban Marina is the best place to stay while moored in Bodrum, it's well equipped and near the market places and shops, which is one of the things Bodrum sells itself on. Out of town and the harbour the coastline is thick with green woods. The next stop on route should be Sedir Island, also called Cleopatra Island, and famous for a beach which has some of the nicest sand in the world - so perfect that the story goes that Mark Antony had it shipped to this Roman resort island from the Red Sea for Cleopatra's pleasure.
From there the coastline becomes more and more crenelated - in the day it was considered pirate-friendly - both these facts contribute to the name, the Bay of Sixty Six Inlets. The ruins of Knidos are the next shore based excursion your itinerary should include, this city was built as a tribute to Aphrodite and is accordingly lovely and very well preserved. Datca is the nearest town to park your boat off and a good restaurant stop as well.
Further south the waters continue to be calm and scenic, past Bozburun, the centre of the local ancient boat building industry and the ancient ruins of Loryma and Amos. Then it's the surprisingly turquoise natural harbour of Turunc, then on to Marmaris.
One of the most startling things about Marmaris is the view of it coming into the harbour, where the colours of the green hills, bright white sand and turquoise waters are most dramatic. Take photos now... Snorkellers, swimmers and any takers for a spot of shopping or some night life disembark here. The local honey and textiles, including carpets, are the things to load your craft up with before heading left out of the harbour again, towards Ekincik, or even better Delikli Island which is a protected area of golden sand, saved for the benefit of the local sea turtle population. As well as wildlife, this island has an ancient town, Kaunos, surrounded by steep cliffs into which huge tombs have been carved.
From there sail on to Sarigerme or Baba Island for more sandy beach, calm water moorings, then on to the Gulf of Göcek, a gulf of small islands ideally spaced for a short island hopping trip. The it's on to Fethiye via the Byzantine ruins on Tersane Island.
Shore based trips about Fethiye could include visits to the Lycian rock tombs on the cliffs behind the town, but this port has more to offer along the coastline, including Ölü Deniz , one of Turkey's most beautiful beaches.
About 65kms from Fethiye are the ruins of Xanthos, the old Lycian capital and Letoon, a major Lycian religious centre . Further South is another of Turkey's beach boasts: Patara , which has a reputation for lovely dunes creeping slowly towards the ruins just back from the beach. Then it's full wind ahead to Kas, precariously positioned, almost squashed, between the mountains and the sea.
Break in Kas then continue left (or south east if you're getting the hang of your compass by now) to Kekova Island, resting place of a sunken Byzantine city - best explored with diving or snorkelling gear if you happen to have some aboard. If you want to visit Kaleköy Castle and maybe see the dolphins then spend a few days here. Finike marina is a more cosmopolitan alternative on the way into the Gulf of Antalya.
This region is steeped in mythology, Mt Olympos and Yanartas, where the Chimera dwelt are just up from the coast, but with an expensive modern sheen added due to its popularity as a holiday destination. Kemer and Kaleici are just two of the marina mooring options along the coast on the way to Antalya.
The name attests to the bright blue waters, and suggests the pale sand and snorkel friendly coastline, but it doesn't mention the beautiful beaches.
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